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Bader spoils Fedor's retirement fight with early TKO, retains Bellator title

MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / Getty

Ryan Bader played spoiler in the Bellator 290 main event.

Bader defeated legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko via TKO at the 2:30 mark of the first round Saturday night in Inglewood, California, in the final fight of Emelianenko's career. Bader retained the heavyweight title with the victory.

The fight was never close. Bader stung Emelianenko with hard punches in the opening seconds and then knocked him down with a right hand. He busted Emelianenko up with vicious ground-and-pound shots, eventually forcing the stoppage.

Bader is the only person to hold two wins over Emelianenko. Bader knocked him out to capture the vacant Bellator heavyweight title in January 2019.

"He put the sport on his back," Bader said of Emelianenko in his postfight interview. "That guy's a legend right there. I'm so glad to be part of his story."

The 46-year-old Emelianenko took off his gloves after the fight and put them on the canvas, confirming his retirement. Several MMA legends - Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Matt Hughes, Dan Henderson, Mark Coleman, Frank Shamrock, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Josh Barnett, and Chael Sonnen - were in the cage afterward to honor Emelianenko.

Emelianenko finally walks away from mixed martial arts after an incredible 23-year career. He's best known for a 28-fight unbeaten streak that lasted from 2001-10 across several promotions such as PRIDE FC, Affliction, and Strikeforce. Emelianenko is the former PRIDE FC heavyweight champion and holds wins against the who's who of his generation of heavyweights, including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Coleman, Mirko Cro Cop, Andrei Arlovski, and Tim Sylvia. He's widely considered the best fighter of the 2000s.

Emelianenko also enjoyed some success in the twilight of his career. He debuted in Bellator in 2017 and put together a 4-3 record with knockout wins over Frank Mir, Tim Johnson, Sonnen, and Jackson. He even made it to the final of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix before losing to Bader the first time.

Emelianenko initially retired from MMA in 2012 but returned in 2015, beating Jaideep Singh at the second-ever Rizin FF event.

Bader defended his heavyweight title for the fourth time Saturday. He's now riding a three-fight winning streak, which includes decision victories over Cheick Kongo and Valentin Moldavsky. Bader used to also be the Bellator light heavyweight champion but lost that title in 2020. He was the first fighter in promotion history to hold two belts simultaneously.

Emelianenko was coming off back-to-back wins and hadn't fallen short since his first meeting with Bader. The heavyweight icon retires with a 40-7 (1 NC) career record.

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